“Blood Harvest”: Tiny Tim stars in this late ’80s sicko clown slasher, now on AMC’s Shudder

By on December 16, 2017

Night Flight recently partnered up with Shudder — the AMC Network’s horror streaming channel — and they’ve asked us to curate a guest row of content, and so we turned to our resident expert on ’80s cult horror, our social media editor KJ, who selected four films from their cult horror library.

We had asked members of Night Flight’s community to select the fifth movie you’ll find in our row of five cult horror titles, and the winner is David Cronenberg’s 1977 cult fave Rabid, which we recently wrote about in this previous blog post.

NF&SHUDDER

The poll is now closed, and thanks for voting! By the way, we’re still offering 25% OFF on an annual subscription (regularly just $29.99 for the whole year) to Night Flight Plus (promo code: SHUDDER), and a free month of Shudder (promo code: NIGHTFLIGHT)!

Read more about Bill Rebane’s cult slasher Blood Harvest below.

BLOODHARVEST6

Director Bill Rebane’s Blood Harvest (a.k.a. Nightmare) arrived fairly late in the game in 1987, enjoying a limited theatrical release through tiny Titan International pictures but still managing to find audiences who hadn’t yet grown weary of the slasher sub-genre.

The story of this particular sicko clown slasher revolves around a beautiful college student, Jill Robinson (played by Itonia “Cari” Salchek), who returns to her peaceful rural Wisconsin hometown one autumn to find the once prosperous farming community is now in economic shambles.

She also finds the house she grew up in has been trashed and painted with graffitied threats, and that her parents have gone missing.

BLOODHARVEST4

It turns out that she’s now the town pariah because everyone hates her banker father, who had foreclosed on several local farms.

Oh yeah, there’s also a masked killer on the loose too, and those closest to her are suddenly being found tied up and hanging from from the rafters in the family barn/slaughterhouse with their throats slit, bleeding like stuck pigs.

BLOODHARVEST7

Singer Tiny Tim — real name: Herbert Buckingham Khaury — steals Rebane’s movie away from Jill’s story, though, with his compelling performance as a wacked-out weirdo minstrel clown who calls himself “the Magnificent Mervo.”

Mervo — the mentally-disturbed brother of Jill’s preppie All American Boy ex-boyfriend Gary (Dean West) — is the only person who seems happy to see her again (he also tries to rekindle the torch he’s been carrying for her all these years).

He’s also apparently been driven mad by the unsolved murder of his own parents.

BLOODHARVEST2

Tiny Tiny, in what ended up being his only starring appearance in a feature film, spends almost the entire film wearing a quilted clown suit and full clown make-up, singing — with a high falsetto vibrato, his trademark — and peeking into windows and talking to himself and generally being a fucking creep.

Rebane had seen the ukelele-strumming performer — still perhaps best remembered for his cover of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” — making an appearance at a beer carnival in Lincoln County, Wisconsin, in 1985. He pitched him an idea he had for a horror film, which is what led to Blood Harvest.

BLOODHARVEST5

At the time, Tiny Tim — who had moved to Des Moines, Iowa, in the ’80s after nearly two full decades in the spotlight — was performing wherever he could get paid, whether it was a community center, a high school theatre or as part of Roy Radin’s Vaudeville Revue.

He was making a comeback of sorts in the mid-’90s, after an appearance on Howard Stern’s radio show, before he died of a heart attack, in 1996.

BLOODHARVEST9

Blood Harvest is also memorable for being the first feature film appearance by actor Peter Krause (as “the Boyfriend”), who is today probably better known for his roles on TV shows like “Six Feet Under,” “Parenthood,” “Sports Night” and other shows.

This was feature director Bill Rebane’s final horror film, and unlike a lot of Rebane’s mostly TV-friendly filmography, Blood Harvest is also noted for its graphic horror and its generous abundance of nudity.

Lovely Itonia Salchek barely wears any pants after the film’s first twenty minutes, appearing topless and even fully nude in many of the film’s sequences.

BLOODHARVEST13

The Estonian-American director was born “Ito” Rebane in Riga, the capital of Latvia, in 1937, but by age seventeen had moved to America, where he ultimately got a job working for WGN-TV in Chicago.

He soon began pursuing interests in dramatic theatre at the Goodman Theatre — creating, producing and directing two musical productions — before finding the easiest way to break into film directing was through the sci-fi and horror genres.

Some of his more intriguing titles include 1965’s Monster A Go-Go and The Giant Spider Invasion, which was one of the fifty top-grossing films in 1975.

BLOODHARVEST3

Since 1966, Rebane has actually been based in chilly northern Wisconsin, up near the Canadian border, mostly residing in the rural town of Gleason in Iron County, some 300 miles north of Chicago.

That’s where he set up his own film studio, The Shooting Ranch, the first ever — and for a long time the only — full-time feature film studio in the Midwest, shooting nine feature-length movies there between 1973 and 1987.

During the 1980s he unsuccessfully tried to lead a movement to get the Wisconsin state government to put resources into attracting more movie business to the frozen northern U.S. state before giving up and shuttering Shooting Ranch in 1988.

BLOODHARVEST12

Rebane later shifted his focus to politics and local government, and unsuccessfully ran for Governor of Wisconsin twice (in 1979, and 2002) as the American Reform Party candidate.

Now in his eighties, Rebane today lives in the small town of Saxon, Wisconsin, where he spews regular praise for President Trump on his blog amid angry, bitter rants about former President Obama (who he calls a secret Muslim) while also recalling how “idiot lawyers” and “corruption” have destroyed his livelihood (among other topics of interest).

Watch Blood Harvest on AMC’s Shudder and make sure you check out Night Flight’s curated row on Shudder this month, which will include Cronenberg’s cult classic Rabid and five more Night Flight selects.

BLOODHARVEST1

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.